The UK’s football chief has said that the Football Association (FA) plans to step up its campaign to drive homophobia off the pitch and out of the terraces.

This according to Peter Tatchell of the gay group Outrage! who has reported that FA chairman, Lord Triesman, assured him that homophobia will be given “the red card”.

“Progress has been slow and frustrating,” Tatchell admitted. “The goodwill seems to be there, but the FA’s delivery has been patchy.

“The FA now says it is committed to renew its efforts, which is good news,” he said. “The Tackling Homophobia Working Group, which has been dormant for a year, partly due to FA staff changes, will be reconvened in mid October. The long-promised anti-homophobia video, for broadcast at matches, will be finalised and launched in 2010,” Tatchell confirmed.

Lord Triesman told Tatchell that the video challenging homophobia in football is “one of the FA’s priorities”.

“We remain committed to challenging all forms of discrimination in football and making the game open to all,” Lord Triesman said.

When the FA’s Tackling Homophobia Working Group reconvenes next month, Tatchell and the gay human rights group OutRage! will press the FA for stronger, more concrete action.

“The FA should impose fines and match suspensions on players and managers who use anti-gay insults,” said Tatchell. “We want clubs that fail to act against homophobic chants to face fines and, in extreme cases, match suspensions or point deductions.

“OutRage! will urge the FA to secure the agreement of all clubs to feature anti-homophobia messages in their match programmes, on tickets and on posters and billboards inside and outside football grounds.

“Prevention is better than cure. Education against homophobia can help overturn bigoted attitudes and make the game welcoming and secure for gay players and spectators. Only then will gay players feel safe to come out,” added Tatchell.

FA spokesman Matt Phillips said the Football Association recognised that the sport had a duty to tackle all discrimination within the game and that the aim was to “confront aggressive issues” such as homophobia.

“There is no place in the game for homophobic or racist abuse and the FA calls for the strongest possible sanctions to be taken against anyone who is found guilty,” said Phillips.

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